Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: American Missionary Association grads to be honored

The Church of the Open Door, Congregational, United Church of Christ on Sunday will honor the graduates of American Missionary Association colleges and universities at the annual Amistad Sunday worship service. The Rev. John Vertigan, Florida Conference minister of the United Church of Christ, will be the guest speaker.

Amistad Sunday celebrates the founding of the American Missionary Association, the first abolitionist organization in the United States with integrated leadership. The organization established over 500 schools, churches, libraries and universities for the newly freed African Americans of the South. It also commemorates an incident that happened in 1839, when a group of enslaved Africans broke free while being transported around the island of Cuba aboard the schooner Amistad.

According to historic documents, the Africans attempted to sail the small vessel back to Africa, but were captured by the U.S. Revenue Brig Washington, off the coast of Long Island. The slaves were charged with mutiny and threatened with return to slavery.

To aid the Africans, the Connecticut Congregationalists formed the Amistad Committee, which organized a legal defense, and eased the captives’ confinement during the lengthy court case. After winning a favorable decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, the organization funded the Africans’ return to Africa.

The Amistad Committee became a seed for wider advocacy for the abolition of slavery in the United States and in 1846, Lewis Tappan, an Amistad Committee leader, founded the American Missionary Association.

The 2016 honorees are attorney Larry Hanfield, Howard University; Lori F. Bailey, Fisk University; Sharletta L. Rawls, Talladega College; Dr. Deborah V. George, Hampton University; and Melvin White, Tougaloo College.

“The Church of the Open Door joins other United Churches of Christ in commemorating the 1839 struggle for freedom, the Amistad Committee and the American Missionary Association’s history as a part of our heritage,” said the Rev. Dr. R. Joaquin Willis, pastor of the church at 6001 NW Eighth Ave. in Liberty City. The community is invited to the 10:30 a.m. service.


The African American Committee of Dade Heritage Trust invites the community to its 18th annual Leome Scavella Culmer Women’s History Luncheon, where three pioneer African-American women will be honored.

They are Beatrice Munnings Sears, 1881-1966; Fredericka Dean Wanza,1918-2015, and Eugenia B. Thomas, 1924-2015.

The luncheon will be at noon on March 21 at Moore Park, 765 NW 36th St. Tickets are $30 each.

For tickets and more information call Dr. Enid Pinkney, 305-638-5800, or Maude Newbold, 305-638-8767.


We celebrate Women’s History Month in March, but the PACE Center for Girls says “March is Believing in Girls Month.”

In keeping with its theme, PACE invites the community to join them for a series of statewide town hall meetings on “dismantling the Barriers to Opportunity for Girls”.

The Miami-Dade meeting will be from 9 a.m. to noon March 18 at Bank United Center, Hurricane 100 Room, 1245 Dauer Dr. in Coral Gables.

The panelists will include leaders in the academic, legal and faith-based communities, for a dialogue on identifying the barriers and a critical conversation on strategies to eliminate them.

For more information, contact Samantha Sexton at


Community Leader and activist Eufaula Frazier will be honored at the “The Lady and Her Legacy” luncheon from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 19 at the AFL-CIO Headquarters, 4349 NW 36th St. in Miami Springs. Miami-Dade School Board Vice Chair Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall will be the keynote speaker.

Entertainment will be provided by the Girls Choir of Miami, as well as dancers and other performers.

Tickets are $40 each and proceeds will benefit the Beulah A.G. Smith Scholarship Foundation (BAGS).

For tickets and more information, contact Akua Scott, 305-781-9641; Connie Johnson, 786-596-3999; or Donald Jones, 305-282-5799.


You are invited to the fund-raising fish fry and dinner sale hosted by the Booker T. Washington High School Class of 1964 on March 18 at 4100 NW 11th Ct.

The event is to raise funds for scholarships for the students at BTW. For additional information, call Gladstone Hunter at 205-632-6506.


The annual Legislative Breakfast sponsored by the Junior League of Miami will be from 9 to 11 a.m. at the League’s headquarters, 713 Biltmore Way in Coral Gables.

Attendees will meet federal, state, and local leaders from Miami-Dade County. Please RSVP to Merdochey LaFrance at

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.